Tonight a new series of Australian Idol starts. As is often the case with such shows, my interest has been on a steady wane since Series One. I expect this will be the case for MasterChef as well - while the next series of it will be almost as popular as the first, when it comes to looking back in 5 years time, I'm guessing it'll be the first one that resonates the most.
The first Oz Idol was a massive cultural event that took everyone a bit by surprise - not the least me. I had no interest in watching pop wannabes. I'd hated "Popstars". I mean really hated it. Every single season I hated it more. And so I expected Idol to be no different. And yet it was. For some reason I started watching, and then kept watching. And yeah I know it's all a bit facile - a glorified karaoke contest, but when it is good, it is well beyond that. Watching Idol I think allows you to indulge in the fantasy of being a record company exec (without the stress of wondering what to do about all the pirated downloads).
In the first season, Cosima De Vito belted out a cover of Cold Chisel's "When the War is Over", and I remember thinking someone somewhere should be signing her up to put that out as a single right now. And indeed it was released and it went number 1, and I was able to think, gee I sure know how to pick them.
I also thought this Rob Mills bloke is a complete idiot. Though that may have been a rather easier thing to pick.
The format is thus great for the teen girls who want to write the performer's name on their pencil case, and for those of us a tad older who want to pretend we have an ear for music.
The main reason that the first season of such shows as this are the ones that seem to be the most remembered is because if they are no good, there is generally no second series. And such shows need a defining moment. In Masterchef for example it was the moment that Julie stayed in the contest despite serving up a "puddle pie" - because it was the moment we all knew the fix was in.
In Season 1 of Oz Idol the big moment came in the Top 3 week. Guy Sebastian, having ripped out a great version of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You", came on and did a rework of The Sound of Music standard "Climb Every Mountain". After hearing it you knew that (a) he was going to win the whole thing, and (b) this was a real singing contest for artists - not mere cover singers.
As the years have passed, I've gotten more cynical about Idol; I hardly watched last year's version. And while some will say Anthony Callea belting out "The Prayer" or Damien Leith doing another version of "Nessun Dorma" (a song that should be banned from being sung in any reality/singing show) were big highlights, for me the peak of Idol will always be Guy Sebastian letting rip the high notes (and Marcia Hines getting all excited afterwards!).